Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sweet Surprises & Sacrifice

After being home in the US for a visit for a couple weeks, I'm back in South Asia, getting back into the swing of things. It was a good trip I have to say, and much needed. I watched my best friend get married, slept in my amazing bed with a comforter in air condition, ate my grandma's puerto rican home cooking, worshipped with my amazing church family, drove my '89 volvo on the RIGHT side of the road... with NO a/c and windows down, went for many long walks on the beach under moonlight, spent time with Jesus, saw a huge sea turtle dig a whole and lay eggs, ate two juicy hamburgers, swam in the sea, breathed in a gorgeous sunrise on the beach, shared meals and coffee with some of the most incredible friends in the world, and loved on my beautiful family. 

Vero Beach Sunrise

And to think I almost didn't go home. It wasn't in the plan when I embarked on this year long journey to South Asia. But to my surprise, God changed that. And he knew exactly what he was doing. He takes me on these amazing journeys and always has sweet little surprises along the way. It's like when I was little, and we bought my dad a briefcase for his birthday. When he came home from work that night, my little sister Christa runs out the door yelling, "Daddy, we got you something! But it's NOT a briefcase! It's not a briefcase!" She couldn't contain her excitement for the surprise we had. I can see God looking at our lives, just absolutely ecstatic about the "surprises" and blessings that he can't wait to give us, and can hardly contain himself. 

I received a lot of encouragement when I was home. So many people spoke into my life. The older I get, the more I realize how important relationships are. And I mean deep relationships. I take them for granted sometimes. I love going home to people that I truly know, people I have invested in and who have invested in me. God is teaching me a lot about relationships. They are also one of the hardest things in the world. You get hurt... and wounded... and sometimes burned. You have to sacrifice and they are messy. That is probably one of the biggest lessons I'm learning here in Asia, surprisingly. Building new relationships is hard, and sometimes I get lazy and don't want to bother with some people who are hard to love. But sometimes one of those sweet "surprises" is in a new relationship, a new friendship God has in store for you. And we miss out if we don't engage and give of ourselves. Love God. Love others. It's what we're called to do. 

my dear best friend's beautiful wedding

My two and a half weeks at home was just the perfect amount of time. I enjoyed every minute of it, but to my surprise, I was ready to come back to Asia. I love my American family and friends. But God has given me a task to do right now, and I need to complete it. I wanted to get back to work and totally engage in the last three months I have here, with IJM. Yes, I needed a time to rest. But the longer I stayed home, the longer I was neglecting the task at hand. God calls us to give up everything. To sacrifice. For me right now, that is my family, church and friends. My dear missionary friend Marybeth gently and passionately reminded me of that just last night (now there's a good friendship; thanks for totally convicting me Marybeth, haha). The amount of sacrifice God requires of us. It scares me. I have a feeling God is just breaking me in. Am I truly sacrificing? God had grace and allowed me to have my "America" fix. What is he going to ask me to give up next? Where will he take me next? Our version of sacrifice is often not his version of sacrifice. The greatest giants of the faith that have gone before us literally sacrificed everything. They gave up their comfort, families, friends, hometowns, wealth, everything. Mother Teresa left her family at 18 years of age and never saw them again. Many lived lives of singleness in order to accomplish more for the kingdom (now that is scary). But to all of them, at the end of their lives, they never regretted it. It was worth it. I want to be that person. Do you? I have a long way to go.

But you know what? Despite the sacrifice we are called to... remember those little "surprises" God has along the way. Those sweet moments when God gently reminds us why we are doing what we are doing. When he sends people into our lives to encourage and uplift us. When he uses us to speak into other people's lives. When we witness the sweet union of two people in marriage. When we see new life come into the world. My last Sunday at home, as I stood in worship at my church, singing and raising my hands, I looked around for a moment and realized what a piece of work the body of Christ is. I thought about my church family here in South Asia, and desperately wished I could merge the two. I wish they could meet each other... brothers and sisters in Christ. God is good. Someday they will. I can't wait for that day when all of us will be worshipping together, literally at the feet of Jesus. It will be worth it... and because of our sacrifice, there will be people worshipping beside us that otherwise would not be there. 


"One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving." 
~Amy Carmichael

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